Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Natural interactions with spatially aware devices

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

This weekend I wanted to transfer some articles I had in my web browser to my Kindle, to read them later. Just thinking about all the necessary procedures made me rule out the idea.

Despite how well virtually connected our devices are (iCloud, Dropbox, …), they still lack a tangible connection. A (representation of a) physical connection of those devices would facilitate a more intuitive interaction built on traditional mental models from the physical world. That’s one of the main reasons why kids interact with iPad so naturally, because it uses interfaces based on natural, tangible interactions.

I tried to imagine how a more intuitive interaction would be while transferring media between devices, sketching it in a short video*:



The interaction feels natural, and provides a seamless transition while consuming media – in this case, listening to music from being in front of the computer to going mobile. It’s a more intuitive way to synchronize media across devices, and the ‘cloud’ would take care of the data transferring in the background (high res files, music that is not existing in your device yet, etc.)

Portable devices can locate other devices quite precisely on a large scale (using GPS, wifi triangulation, etc.) but in small spaces they only ‘sense’ the existence of other devices (bluetooth, local network) – neither the absolute nor relative position of other devices are being measured with precision enough to enable a physical connection beyond the cable.

Some platforms use a physical connection using the device itself to create more intuitive ways to interact with them. Sifteo cubes use IrDA transceivers to detect other cubes nearby (<1cm). Microsoft Surface is using near-infrared light and cameras to detect objects sitting on the table. Last versions of Surface use PixelSense technology, being able to detect the object using micro sensors embedded on the screen pixel array.


Microsoft Surface

It seems that desktop and tablets are converging into a personal touch-screen device. Incorporating the technologies mentioned above on these devices would create a new canvas for exploring more natural ways of engaging with media on the tangible realm across multiple devices.


*The video sketch was done in a a few hours using the following tools:

– Keynote for the animations.

– Screenium for screencasting.

– iMovie for video editing.

– for the sound fx.

I have a vision

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I watched the Microsoft’s future vision video, showing ‘How people will get things done at work, at home, and on the go, in 5-10 years’. Well, I hope they’re wrong because I don’t quite like what this future looks like. The whole video is an extrapolation of the power of technology to the future, brutally forced into everyday moments.

I’ve been working on projects that required making a video to show how a product or service would integrate on a future context. Sometimes is challenging to convey ideas without bending some of the features in order to make them understandable for everybody, using just audio and video. But there are ways to do it. In Microsoft’s video I don’t feel neither the concepts nor the representation of them are exactly on track.

I picked three moments that called my attention:

1. Is she using her glasses to translate the audio? I don’t think glasses are the best product to integrate such a feature. Solving an audio problem by putting a piece glass in front of your eyes when you don’t need it doesn’t sound appropriate. Wouldn’t be the phone a better option?

If the reason behind it is to make it discreet for other people and integrated in an object people usually wears, then I don’t understand the shining “translating” on the glasses arm which is seen only by people surrounding the user.

2. It scares me the amount of screens that will be surrounding people. Or people surrounding screens… But it feels the relationship between users, screens and context (which is what I’d like to know about the future) remains unclear. It’s even more confusing. Is all the information (work-related, personal, confidential) available from every screen? How is it filtered? By location, by people around the screen? Maybe it’s too risky to answer some of these questions on a visionary video.

Also I’m not sure why information is not confined within the screen frame anymore, and expands on walls and tables.

3. Do you really need to check the content of your fridge on a screen? Is it too much effort to just open the fridge?


Anyway. This July I spent some days in California. One afternoon I was sitting with my friend Eric on a campsite near Yosemite. It was a place with great views, nice weather,  and the right time to open a bottle of wine. The cork popping sound is kind of iconic, and always helps celebrate a memorable event.

Then we imagined the cork was able to capture that moment. *Of course* technology would make it possible – this technology that will be everywhere, that will be very small, and very intelligent. With a pinch of irony, we imagined another example of what we might find around us in the future, specially if we follow certain future visions.

Take it lightly :)

Presenting… the e-Cork.

Dynamic typeface

Monday, July 25th, 2011

For the Generative Photography project I used basic patterns created with Processing. I thought it would be interesting to capture words with the same technique, so they would appear ‘broken’ depending on the framerate, and thus, difficult to read. I started seeking this effect projecting words with Processing – glitches didn’t appear when using regular typography, probably because the way is rendered is different than basic shapes (rectangle, ellipse, etc.)

I created a typography based on squares, so each character can fit in a 3×5 matrix, inspired on MiniML fonts by Craig Kroeger. I adapted some characters to make them fit into the 3×5 – ‘M’ and ‘W’ characters look a bit weird in such a small container but are still recognizable.

After coding the typo in processing to be generated parametrically, I was appealed by the aesthetics of the characters being overlapped with some transparency. The resulting symbols using negative tracking define a visual code or identity for each word.

It’s also interesting to think about these symbols as a way to encrypt information. I haven’t spent time thinking on how many words (from the English dictionary, say) could a single symbol represent.

It might be relatively easy to extract which characters are inside each symbol although it doesn’t have any information about the sequence, so anagrams are not distinguishable – ‘LISTEN’ and ‘SILENT’ look the same on the most compressed symbol.

It starts being more complicated (and beautiful) when the letter-spacing is not multiple of the pixel size, creating interesting patterns and shades of grey.

Using this idea I took the poem “Ma Bohème” by Arthur Rimbaud and I distributed each line vertically. These are two different layouts using different spacing.


These are two close-ups of the images above, I really like to think that this apparent randomness have a meaning behind.

I wanted to capture the dynamism of using this typography while morphing from one position to another – I did this small experiment using the same poem, this time with horizontal arrangement so is easier to distinguish the text. The poem is recited by a french virtual lady (i.e. text-to-speech):

Separately, I thought about using the property of the typo to shrink for visualizing the population density of the world’s 16 most populated cities. The more dense is a city (population / km2), the more compressed are the characters.

I’m not completely convinced about it since the appearance of the symbols not only depends on the population density but also on how long is the name of the city. What is true (and taking the meaning of density literally) is that the density of the symbols change according to the population density – amount of black / cm2, for example. Is not strictly comparable from one city to another since the name length is not the same, but the grey intensity together with the level of legibility gives a sense of density.

While comparing different cities, the population density lacks some meaning without the population number. In the following poster each city symbol contains information about the population (using the font size, linear relationship) and the population density (using letter-spacing, Dens^2+Dens+A relationship; letter-spacing being relative to the font size).

White version:

Black version:

In parallel I made some tests adding color. These are samples using different ‘densities’ and color patterns:

Using the population parameter, I created some posters for other cities. Here the ones from the two cities I was visiting in the moment of doing these experiments:

There has been a slight deviation from the first purpose of that dynamic font and the experiments shown above – I’ll come back to the photography path some day.







Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Think, Plan, Execute

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Project phases from Bézier’s point of view.

Imprints and memories

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Some scans from my old notebook, 2010-07.

Experimenting with food

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I like cooking. I like eating. I like experimenting.

As part of my interest to experiment with materials and processes, I thought about making a session with food. I commented the idea to Martina Pagura – italian, cooks amazingly and loves food too. She had in mind to experiment with food also, so we set a day in our calendar, and we did it.

We agreed on cooking small different things, just to taste, combining ingredients that are not usually connected in our gastronomic culture, or using processes that are not usual for these ingredients. We tried also to combine different textures and temperatures. Taking a look at the outcome, it seems we had a preference to give more importance to fruits, cooking them with vegetables for example.

We started the journey going to the supermarket and a vegetable shop. We spent around one hour, selecting ingredients and creating crazy combinations while picking them.

So that’s what we bought:

Having all the ingredients on the table, we elaborated a list of combinations we wanted to try.

To start, we made tea and coffee to freeze it, in case we feel like using with someting. We also put some sparkling water on the freezer.

Once frozen, the sparkling water was separated in water and gas, so it could be nice to use it with some container that could be eaten, creating a nice little explosion on your mouth.

We used the tea ice cube for the white wine. It kept it cold, and provided an evolving taste, as more tea was melted into the wine.

As a starter, Martina prepared ham rolls with ricotta, soy bean sprouts and curcuma.

We were not totally convinced about the bitterness of the raw soy sprouts combined with the other ingredients, but it was an interesting combination. The crispy sprouts added a nice texture to the smoothness of the ricotta and the elasticity of the ham. A good start for our menu!

Then I prepared a melon with cream and rigatino, a spiced bacon Elena brought me from Arezzo (Italy). I made melon balls with a spoon and whipped the cream until it had a good consistency. I fried the rigatino with really hot oil and dried it using kitchen roll.

Wow, not bad. The crispy and tasty rigatino dancing with the sweet melon, and the cream as a referee bringing them together. The fried rigatino, eaten alone, has a strong flavor, that is toned down because the cream, that absorbs the salty taste. For that dish, we opened a nice Italian wine Martina brought.

Next! Martina cooked a very interesting pasta (of course, pasta had to be in our menu!). Brown pasta, grapes, pecorino, pine nuts, yogurt and pepper. And to the oven.

Really interesting. We looked each other without knowing what to say, how to define it. After some trials, we decided to define it as “complex”. And maybe too much – ingredients, tastes, textures, even sizes and shapes. It’s not a matter that it wasn’t good enough (I thing it really was), but we are not use to that complexity. We could detect all the ingredients, but the mouth had a hard work to understand what was happening with them.

The small pine nuts were asking for attention – each time you found one, it killed the other ingredients’ taste for a while. The grapes, a bit cooked, brought the sweet side of the dish, while the cheese added some salty taste. But it wasn’t a smooth transition, it was a dish of independent and revolutionary flavors. Probably the most interesting dish we made this night from a taste challenge point of view.

Then we went for small bundles of puff pastry, filled with different stuff.

Martina cooked aubergines with pear, in which she put different spices on it – curry, curcuma or turmeric. Pear and aubergine combined perfectly, it was difficult to distinguish between them since they got the same texture and exchanged their juice. We made a couple without any spice and they were really good. The spices added an exotic touch.

I boiled leaks for 5 minutes, and then I added orange juice, with a higher temperature so it fried a little bit. Then I added a bit of cinnamon. And it tasted super good! Leaks are amazing, they get on well with everything, it’s an easy vegetable. Cinnamon and orange tend to go well also, but never tried with vegetables. This one tasted really simple, just a pleasure.

We also made avocados with ricotta and a bit of paprika powder. That one was simple too, but a bit less surprising.

The small portions allowed us to try different things, or variations of the same recipe. We enjoyed a lot our last dish!

And for dessert, I made something I used to do but Martina didn’t taste and has a strange combination also: strawberries with sugar (ok until here) and a bit of vinegar. The vinegar soaks the strawberries that release part of the juice, that dissolves the sugar. And tastes amazing!

After more than 4 hours cooking, we only used a few ingredients from what we bought, and we left many combinations for the next session – I hope it comes soon. It was really interesting to challenge the senses with new combinations, and try to identify why they were good or not.

There is more and more interest about creating experiences with food, combining different ingredients and transform them with unusal processes. Science is also taking an important role on diet, both on the artistic/experiential and the everyday meal/health side. A couple of references about that:

Ferran Adrià (pioneer of molecular cookery) and his restaurant El Bulli, which closes 6 months a year to dedicate time for experimenting on his lab in Barcelona, el BulliTaller.

Fundació Alicia (from the words AlimentacióCiencia in Catalan) is a foundation which aims to investigate diet processes, health and gastronomy from a social point of view, with scientific methods. I saw some of their methods and machinery they use at the exhibition center Arts Santa Monica in Barcelona. It’s difficult to distinguish their lab from a chemical lab, but the things they create are amazing experiences for the senses!

Be wild, also while cooking. We know how spaghetti al pesto or yogurt with muesli taste. But how do they taste together?

Bon áppetit!

(more pictures here)

Perceptions & Assumptions

Monday, June 14th, 2010

We know how to use almost all the objects that surround us. Our ability to learn and retain memories from past experiences, together with our perception of reality, build a set of assumptions over the objects, shaping our behavior while using them. As David Rockeby wrote in his interesting article The Construction of Experience, “the interface itself, by defining how we perceive and navigate content, shapes our experience of that content”. We experience the reality through our sensory system. From Rockeby’s article, “there is the reality out there – raw sensuality. The base of human-reality interface is raw and uncoded. We decode with perceptual filters”.

A repeated experience with an object tends to build a standard in our mind. We (designers) use these standards as metaphors to facilitate the comprehension and use of a complex or new concept.

And there is intuition, that is also constructed and being modified based on our experience and sensory perception.

But what happen when we don’t know anything about an object?

I’m interested on how an unknown object can challenge us, how is the process of discovering its functionality, its features, how to operate it. And the feelings that can arise on the user: frustration, disappointment, curiosity, surprise, addiction, etc.

Is it possible to have a new, pure relationship with an object with no assumptions? How many levels of content can we access though our senses? How many other levels are we missing if we only rely in our senses?

Is the intuition a result of our sensory perception and assumptions from our past experiences? Or is an independent dimension?

I started exploring some of these questions with a small experiment as part of an open exploration with the aim to have a better understanding of the essence of the interaction between humans and objects.

The experiment consisted of giving a wood cube to different people and let them interact with it, with no instructions. The cube has a labyrinth inside, with a ball in it. It has also a hole.


The purpose of the experiment is to generate an instant assumption that drives the interaction with the object. However, during the experiment, the object seems to challenge the assumption, generating doubt about the real goal, addiction or frustration. Here a video of the experiment.

Without any instructions, only by seeing the hole and hearing a ball trapped inside, the goal seems clear. It’s interesting to see the reactions and the evolution of the exploration of the object by different people.

Jacek spent twenty minutes. He found the hole was a problem, as it was setting up a challenge an offering a goal without assuring it – “this hole makes everything complicated”. The curiosity to know what was inside make him thing about other ways to open the box, even break it – which could actually have been the goal, why not?

In other cases there were ups & downs on the motivation to pursue a goal that wasn’t clear. For example during the experiment with Shruti, there is two moments where she seems to give up, but continues for some more minutes. Is the assumption that makes her continue exploring? Maybe the possibility to find another goal? When is it “enough”?

It seemed to be a cycle in all the experiments: exploration, (assumption of the goal), motivation, try understand the inside, query the goal, frustration, (something that made continue exploring or giving up), motivation, and so on.

A bit more analytical, Mayo made some questions to narrow down the possibilities of the purpose of the object, and the experiment. As he explained me later, he spent a some time trying to mentally draw the labyrinth to get the ball out. “It seems that is why it was build for. Or for making music”.

At some point the ball gets stuck on the labyrinth, and needs to be shaken to be released. That added some confusion.

Some other people tried to put stuff inside through the hole to see if it could come out later on.

Laura proposed me to put different materials on the labyrinth’s walls in order to facilitate to find the way out for the ball. She’s always constructive, even building over the assumption that the goal was getting the ball out :).

Actually there was no way out for the ball. The labyrinth was build to keep the ball inside. Some people considered this option but they continued trying, probably because a) there is no way to prove that you cannot take the ball out. b) it’s hard to look down on the obvious goal (a reasoned assumption) and spend time on finding a new uncertain goal.

That experiment has to be considered within a frame of an experiment, since the participants knew that there was a hidden purpose, not just playing. Although they were free to play as much time as they wanted, I’d like to repeat the experiment without asking to participate – leaving the cube on the street maybe. Also I’d like to test it with children, and see in which age they don’t build assumptions with a labyrinth, a ball and a hole.

Here some pictures of the inside:




More pictures here.

Thanks to Jacek, Jennifer, Dean, Elena, Shruti, Laura and Mayo.